Aside from transferring, another option for EPA students can be found right in their backyards. Approximately 320 students decided to go to EPAA for the 2019-20 school year, a small learning community within the district.
The principal of EPAA, Amika Guillaume, stresses three main factors throughout a student’s four years at EPAA. The first factor is “Bulldog love.”
“This idea that you have to love yourself, you have to love your community, and you must love from where you come from,” Guillaume said.
Many students at EPAA are first-generation students who come from various backgrounds, including poverty and immigrant families. To learn that they should be proud of their background, no matter where their parents came from, is essential for all students.
The second idea is “Bulldog attitude,” which showcases a love of learning and how learning should be a priority in students’ lives. When students are deciding if they want to go to college or not, the administration explains to them that they have a privilege to learn for the next four years and focus on studies to prepare them for the future better.
“This is very hard for first-generation kids to understand because their families are asking, ‘Why aren’t you helping with rent?’ and saying that they are not going to be able to find a real job after college,” Guillaume said.
In contrast, many students at Carlmont have never doubted that they will attend college after high school because that is what their parents have instilled in them since kindergarten. According to Guillaume, college has not crossed many EPA students’ minds as they enter high school because many families are focused on putting food on the table every night rather than getting their children into elite colleges.
The last idea stressed is “Bulldog power,” when eighth-graders and incoming ninth-graders are taken to a local food bank and help those in need. This idea leaves students with a sense of power and shows them that they can impact the world and be grateful for what they have.
Guillaume sets up an environment that directly responds to the struggles of the students and the community within EPA that students and families at Carlmont may not experience. Generally, Carlmont students are born with opportunities and expectations, while EPA students find themselves lacking some of those opportunities.
“The challenge is really to get people to understand other people’s perspectives, whether that is a religious or racial based. Just getting people to understand other people’s points of view and where they are coming from is the biggest issue around diversity,” Crame said.